There is no logical explanation for why Navy men’s basketball cannot beat Boston University in Annapolis. After all, the Terriers have not been demonstrably better than the Midshipmen during the time both have been members of the Patriot League.
Navy’s latest home loss in the series may have been the most maddening because it was the result of blowing a double-digit lead.
Junior forward Max Mahoney scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half to lead a gutsy comeback as Boston University continued its dominance of Navy at Alumni Hall, posting a 75-69 victory before an announced crowd of 1,162.
“I don’t have an answer for you. They beat us here every year,” Navy head coach Ed DeChellis bemoaned.
There was no mystery as to why the Terriers were able to erase a 14-point deficit and defeat the Midshipmen on their home floor for the sixth straight season. This latest loss to Boston was due to Navy’s miscues on offense and lapses on defense.
“I have no explanation for why we always play well down there,” Boston University head coach Joe Jones said. “There are some gyms where I’ve never won and there are others that I can’t seem to lose.”
Mahoney was unstoppable in the low post in making 8 of 10 shots while freshman guard Jonas Harper came off the bench to score 11 of his 14 points after intermission for Boston (9-8, 2-2 in Patriot League). Sophomore swingman Javante McCoy scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half when the Terriers made 15 of 25 field goals.
“My thoughts are we didn’t play any defense during the second half,” DeChellis said. “You can’t let a team score 49 points and shoot 60 percent in the second half and expect to win.”
Senior forward George Kiernan scored 19 points to lead Navy (5-10, 2-2), which has lost two straight after opening Patriot League play with back-to-back wins at home. Senior point guard Hasan Abdullah totaled 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Midshipmen, who committed 16 turnovers.
“Offensively, we take the ball out of our hands too much. It’s turnovers, it’s shot selection… it’s all rolled up into one,” DeChellis said. “You have a turnover and another turnover then you take a bad shot and all of a sudden the tide turns.”
Sophomore guard Cam Davis contributed 15 points for Navy, which allowed the visitors to score 15 points off turnovers and another 12 points as a result of second chance looks.
Boston University changed the momentum by shoving the ball inside to the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Mahoney and taking it strong to the basket. The Terriers shot 19 free throws in the second half and sank 16 of them with Mahoney (6-for-7) and McCoy (6-6) doing most of the damage.
“I told our players: That was as good a win as we’ve had in a long time because we weren’t playing well. We had to go battle and will it and we were able to get it done,” Jones said. “It was impressive. I thought there were some guys that just played with unbelievable energy during that run. I thought we had some guys who made some effort plays to get us going.”
Freshman wing John Carter Jr. and Abdullah made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start the second half, sparking a 14-2 run that seemingly put Navy in control. Abdullah made a pair of driving layups while Kiernan converted a nifty reverse off a fastbreak and added an uncontested lay-in as the Mids took a 42-28 lead at the 15:53 mark of the second half.
“We got off to a really good start in the second half. We got some stops, got some really good shots up,” Kiernan said. “We got up by 14. Then, at the 14-minute mark, things started to go downhill.”
Mahoney began the comeback by scoring off low post moves on three consecutive possessions. Harper came into the contest and drained a three-pointer then followed with a driving layup and just like that the Navy lead was down to six points.
“I thought we came out of the locker room pretty well and got after them a bit. We had a 14-point lead then we just do things that aren’t very good,” DeChellis said.
Kiernan and Davis briefly stemmed the rally by making 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to restore the Navy lead to nine (52-43) with 11:01 remaining. However, Harper and Mahoney were the catalysts of an 18-4 run that completely changed momentum.
Freshman forward Jack Hemphill, whose older brother James played at Navy, swished a dagger of a 3-pointer during the decisive stretch that saw the Terriers take a 61-56 lead with 5:07 to go.
“After the first six minutes of the second half, I didn’t think our defense was all that good,” DeChellis said. “We tried our zone, we tried our man – we just didn’t guard them.”
Junior center Evan Wieck scored in the low post and moments later Kiernan made a 3-pointer as Navy tied the score at 61 with 3 ½ minutes remaining. Mahoney simply posted up on the other end and sunk a jump hook to give Boston the lead for good.
“We’re tied with three minutes to go and they go right to Max Mahoney, who we haven’t guarded all game, and he scores the ball,” DeChellis said. “You’ve got to figure out a way to win the game. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We just didn’t make the plays.”
DeChellis called timeout for the specific purpose of ripping into the officials after Kiernan was called for a foul after getting run over by Tyler Scanlon, who appeared to clear out with his arm on the way to the basket. The eighth-year head coach clearly wasn’t pleased with the foul disparity (23-14) that saw the Mids attempt just 13 free throws.
“We scored enough points, by our standard, to win. We didn’t play well enough on defense,” Kiernan said. “We hang our hat on defense and we just didn’t get enough stops. It was not our best effort tonight, which is very frustrating.”
Navy must now play four of its next five games on the road.
“This one definitely stings, but we’ve got a big week ahead. We have to get over this one and get back to work,” Kiernan said. “These games come so quick that you can’t think about a loss. You have to watch the tape, learn from it and apply the lessons to the next one.”
BOSTON U. 75, NAVY 69
BOSTON U. (9-8): Scanlon 1-6 1-2 3, Mahoney 8-10 6-7 22, Vilarino 1-1 3-4 5, McCoy 4-13 6-6 15, Tynen 2-4 0-1 4, Hemphill 2-6 0-0 5, Mathon 1-1 0-0 2, Harper 5-5 1-2 14, Pascoe 0-2 0-0 0, Petcash 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 26-53 17-22 75.
NAVY (5-10): Kiernan 8-13 1-1 19, Wieck 3-4 0-0 6, Abdullah 5-9 0-0 12, Carter 1-3 0-0 3, Davis 5-9 3-5 15, Ogele 1-6 0-2 2, L.Loehr 0-0 0-0 0, Njoku 1-3 1-2 3, Summers 3-8 3-3 9, Strong 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 8-13 69.